Green groups oppose Davao City’s waste-to-energy incineration project

August 23, 2021

Pro-environment groups urged Mayor Sara Duterte to abandon a waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration project and uphold the people’s right to a healthy environment in Davao City.

The groups said the city government must invest in “genuine zero waste solutions” instead of providing a “band-aid solution” to its solid waste problem. 

Jill Banta, regional coordinator of Plastic-Free Pilipinas Project, said Mayor Duterte has the power to lead the whole city in rejecting a “polluting and costly WTE project.” 

“The mayor could easily reject the project if she wants to and listen to the science of ecological waste management and to the appeal of the people,” she said. 

She said zero waste in the entire city is not impossible if the city government will only choose to support and replicate the efforts of Purok Onse in Tacunan village.

Banta said residents in the village were able to reduce the monthly volume of waste sent to the landfill by 3000 kgs, after only seven months of implementing Zero Waste solutions.

She said the residents and village officials worked together to implement the “scheduled collection of segregated waste, door-to-door collection of food waste, weekend recyclables deposit, and sari-sari store refilling stations.”

Early this month, Mayor Duterte said during her radio program that the city government was determined to continue its P2.5-Billion Waste-to-Energy (WTE) project.

“For us here in the City Government of Davao, we already crossed that bridge a long time ago when we purchased the property for the WTE plant,” said Mayor Duterte.

“It’s been decided already that there is a direction for WTE, and that we bought a property specifically for that purpose,” she added. 

The city government has started exploring WTE as one of the solutions to the solid waste problem about three years ago as the city’s sanitary landfill nears full capacity. 

It has already purchased a 10-hectare lot for the WTE project and has sought the guidance of the country’s environment department for the construction of the facility. 

Since 2016, Davao City’s sanitary landfill in New Carmen has accumulated around 900,000 tons of garbage, exceeding its maximum capacity level of 700,000 to 800,000 tons.

The group EcoWaste Coalition said the proposed WTE facility “is expensive, yet produces minimal energy compared to genuine renewable energy resources.” 

The group said the project will only force Davao City to produce more waste to meet the requirement that the WTE facility needs. 

The proposed facility in Davao City requires a minimum of 600 tons of waste per day but the city only generates some 180 tons, according to the group. 

However, data from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office showed that the city generated around 900 tons of garbage per day in 2019. 

About 600 tons directly went to the sanitary landfill while 300 tons went to recycling facilities. 

The environmental group Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) urged Mayor Duterte “to stop threats, imminent or not, against the environment and public health.”

A MindaNews report quoted lawyer Mark Peñalver of IDIS saying, “It is unfortunate that despite scientific evidence and legal implications on the WTE incineration, the City is still pursuing such environmentally and health-threatening projects.” 

“I’m not sure what’s holding back the City from rejecting the project,” the lawyer added. 

In an online forum on August 21, Davao City Councilor Diosdado Mahipus Jr said the city council still has “questions on the safety of the facility and the energy that will be produced if it is practicable.”

“We are now being educated by EcoWaste and the other groups that it may not be necessary to have that [WTE] facility,” he said. 

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